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An Epic Debate Over Abstinence, HIV/AIDS Prevention Erupts On The Texas House Floor: WATCH


Republican Texas state Rep. Stuart Spitzer (shown above with Sen. Ted Cruz) says he didn't get laid until he was 29 — with his wife.

And while that's admirable — to each his own, right? — the trouble is now Spitzer thinks everyone else should refrain from sex before marriage, too. Not only that, but Spitzer is willing to sacrifice precious HIV and STD prevention dollars to promote his abstinence-only ideology. 

Unfortunately, abstinence education is unrealistic and doesn't work. Case in point: Texas receives the most federal abstinence dollars of any state, but has the third-most HIV/AIDS cases and the fifth-highest teen pregnancy rate. Coincidentally, some of the higher teen pregnancy rates are in Spitzer's district

Spitzer, a physician, even admitted on the House floor this week that abstinence education "may not be working well." Nevertheless, he managed to convince his colleagues to divert $3 million from HIV and STD prevention into abstinence education. But that was not before Spitzer took a rather epic grilling from some Democrats. One asked Spitzer whether his wife was the first person he asked to have sex, and another flatly refuted his assertion that STDs can only be contracted through sex, suggesting he may be in need of the prevention education he aims to cut. 

Watch the debate in two parts, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "An Epic Debate Over Abstinence, HIV/AIDS Prevention Erupts On The Texas House Floor: WATCH" »

Texas Lawmaker Defends 'License To Discriminate' By Comparing Gays To Nazis


A Texas Republican lawmaker compared gays to Nazis and Westboro Baptist Church members in defending a "license to discriminate" amendment this week. 

Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, once named the most anti-gay member of Legislature by Equality Texas, is the author of a proposal that would enshrine a "license to discriminate" against LGBT people in the Texas Constitution.

Krause decided to author the legislation after another lawmaker — GOP Rep. Jason Villalba — dropped it in response to opposition from the Texas Association of Business, the state's powerful chamber of commerce.

While Villalba had adamantly denied the amendment is intended to promote anti-LGBT discrimination, Krause readily admits it. From The Austin American-Statesman:  

"Should a Jewish bakery have to bake a cake for the neo-Nazi convention coming into town? Nobody would say that. Nor would anybody say a gay florist couple has to give flowers to a Westboro Baptist protest at funerals," Krause said, referring to a Kansas church known for its anti-gay rhetoric and protesting at soldiers’ funerals. "All it’s saying is that if you feel like it has been burdened, that gives you a chance to go to court to say the government is infringing on my religious freedom because they are forcing me to do this."

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, issued a statement condemning Krause's remarks: 

Miller.Kathy“Making such bizarre and wildly offensive comparisons to justify passing a bill that allows people to use religion as a weapon to discriminate is beyond cynical. Even worse is that Rep. Krause callously ignores the real-life consequences of reopening the door to the kind of unfair and cruel discrimination our country rightly turned its back on decades ago. His bill could lead to individuals being denied jobs, housing and even public services we all take for granted simply because of who they are and whom they love. And it would suck Texas into the whirlwind of criticism from businesses and faith leaders that we’re seeing in Indiana.”

Fortunately, it appears neither Krause's amendment nor a similar proposal in the Senate is going anywhere. The Houston Chronicle reports:

Unhappy with the current law, a number of state legislators this session are attempting to "enhance" Texas' religion freedom laws. They already are pumping the brakes, however, in the wake of intense opposition from the business community, agreeing to tweak their bills to ameliorate concerns that it targets the gay community. Civil rights and business groups, however, say the changes do not go far enough, voicing hope that the outcry lobbed at similar proposals in Indiana, and now Arkansas, will kill the legislation before it gains legs in Texas. 

"This thing is equally bad or worse than Indiana, and look what's happening there," said Bill Hammond, head of the powerful lobbying group the Texas Association of Business. Organizations as disparate as NASCAR, Wal-Mart and Apple have blasted Indiana and Arkansas for their laws, already prompting the governors of both states to backpedal ontheir support. ... 

It is unclear whether any of the Texas proposals will even get a committee hearing this session. Citing the "national attention" Indiana's proposal has garnered, State Affairs Committee Chair Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said the House must be "very thoughtful" about bringing it up for a vote. In the Senate, his counterpart, Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said there were no plans at this time to hear the legislation.

If anything, Krause's admission that the amendment is intended to allow business owners to turn away LGBT people, along with his invocation of neo-Nazis and Westboro Baptist, only further cements the proposals' demise.

So keep talking, Matt.  

Texas In 'League Of Its Own' with 20 Hateful Anti-LGBT Bills In 2015


Indiana may be getting most of the attention, but Texas is "in a league of its own" when it comes to anti-LGBT legislation in 2015, according to a joint news release issued Tuesday by Equality Texas, the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Freedom Network. 

As we reported earlier this month, Texas lawmakers have filed at least 20 anti-LGBT bills, the most in the history of any state. 

Texas already has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act that is somewhat similar to Indiana's new law. However, the 1999 Texas RFRA includes an exemption for civil rights and wasn't intended to sanction discrimination against LGBT people. 

This year, Texas lawmakers have introduced two proposals that would remove the RFRA's civil rights exemptions and enshrine a "license to discriminate" against LGBT people in the state Constitution. The two proposed amendments are among six measures designed to allow businesses, government workers and other individuals to use religion to justify discrimination. 

Another five bills would prohibit cities from adopting or enforcing nondiscrimination ordinances protecting LGBT people. Meanwhile, six bills seek to undermine court rulings declaring the state's marriage ban unconstitutional, and three would make it illegal for transgender people to use restrooms and similar facilities according to their gender identity. 

From the release: 

"As troubling as the laws in Indiana and elsewhere truly are, Texas is in a league of its own when it comes to legislative efforts to legitimize and in some cases even mandate discrimination against its LGBT residents,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network. “Supporters of this avalanche of cruel, mean-spirited bills cynically declare that they should have the freedom to discriminate while ignoring the real-life consequences for people who, simply because of who they are and whom they love, could lose their jobs or homes or be denied public services that others take for granted. I’m certain most Texans don’t define freedom that way." ... 

While enactment of the constitutional amendments would require a two-thirds vote in the Texas House and Senate as well as by Texas voters on a statewide ballot, passage of the 18 other bills requires just a simple majority vote in the two legislative chambers. Major U.S. companies have pushed back hard against such laws passed recently in Indiana, Arkansas and other states. A number of those companies as well as national organizations have even announced that they will reconsider plans to expand operations or hold events in those states. Business leaders in Texas — as well as an increasing number of clergy and other faith leaders — have also been expressing their concerns that the proposed legislation in Texas makes the Lone Star State appear intolerant and unwelcoming.

The release also notes that Texas lawmakers have introduced at least 35 pro-LGBT bills, the most in the history of the Lone Star State: 

“Indiana’s legislators could have avoided the current economic backlash if they had passed a RFRA similar to the 1999 Texas law, which carefully balances religious liberty and nondiscrimination,” [Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck] Smith said. "Texas has been a national leader in protecting individual liberty, and now the Lone Star State has the opportunity to continue that tradition of leadership by passing nondiscrimination laws that protect the individual right of all Texans to work hard and protect their families regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Read an analysis of anti-LGBT legislation in Texas, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

War LGBT Equality Texas

Texas Lawmakers Debate Whether To Take Alabama-Style Stand Against Gay Marriage: LIVE VIDEO


AUSTIN — Texas lawmakers are scheduled to debate a bill Wednesday that aims to bar county clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples — even if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down state marriage bans as expected in June. 

The “Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act," by GOP Rep. Cecil Bell, would remove authority over marriage licenses from elected county clerks and place it with the appointed secretary of state. It would also prohibit state or local funds from being used to license, register, certify or support same-sex marriage. 

The bill is set to be heard Wednesday by the House Committee on State Affairs. You can watch a live-stream of the hearing here, but it is not expected to begin until late Wednesday afternoon.

"Should this legislation pass, and then the Supreme Court rules in favor of the freedom to marry, Texans would have to foot the bill for millions of dollars of litigation," Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said during a press conference about the bill on Wednesday morning. 

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, called the bill "a legislative temper tantrum" from those who refuse to accept that the U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection for same-sex couples.  

"Passing the bill would put Texas on a collision course with both the United States Supreme Court and the harsh judgment of history, and in both cases Texas would fare very poorly," Miller said. 

The bill, which has 21 co-authors, is one of four anti-gay marriage bills introduced by Rep. Bell (shown above cutting cake at a rally in February to mark the 10th anniversary of the state's marriage amendment). If passed by a two-thirds majority, which is unlikely, it would take effect immediately. If passed by a simple majority, it would take effect Sept. 1, three months after the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the issue.

The bill is one of more than 20 anti-LGBT measures introduced in the Texas Legislature this year, the most in the history of any state. 

On Monday, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore spoke during a rally at the Capitol and encouraged Texas lawmakers to follow his lead and defy federal court rulings in favor of marriage equality.

A federal district judge struck down Texas' marriage ban last year, but stayed his decision pending the state's appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit, which heard oral arguments in January. The 5th Circuit has not yet ruled.   

Should you wish to contact members of the House Committee on State Affairs, their info is here

Austin Man Claims W Hotel Bouncer Called Him 'Fag' Before Assaulting Him During SXSW


An Austin man claims a W Hotel bar bouncer called him a "fag" before throwing him to the ground — breaking his arm, dislocating two bones in his hand and possibly causing nerve damage. 

Bobby Beltran, 31 said the incident happened Sunday, March 15, during South by Southwest. KVUE-TV reports: 

According to a police report, a hotel bouncer asked him and his friends to leave because they were too drunk. Beltran and the bouncer exchanged heated words, and that's when the hotel worker called him a gay slur.

"He was walking behind me and said, 'That's right, fag,' and continued to walk me out of the building," Beltran said. "I turned to him and said 'That's not right, you can't be doing that stuff.'"

Beltran said that's when the bouncer violently threw him to the ground. Once he was outside the hotel, Beltran said he realized how injured he was and that friends took him to the hospital.

Beltran's attorney planned to file a lawsuit against the W Austin Hotel on Wednesday.

The W Austin is situated near the city's largest gay clubs, and the chain is otherwise very LGBT-friendly. Parent company Starwood Hotels & Resorts received a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's most recent Corporate Equality Index. The W Austin provided this statement to KVUE: 

"Providing a safe environment is the essence of our business. The hotel contacted police the night of the incident and will cooperate with law enforcement in any investigation they undertake."

Watch KVUE's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Austin Man Claims W Hotel Bouncer Called Him 'Fag' Before Assaulting Him During SXSW" »

Texas Same-Sex Marriage Plaintiffs Endure 2nd Harrowing Child Birth With No Parental Rights: PHOTOS


Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman were inspired to become plaintiffs in a marriage equality lawsuit during the birth of their first child. 

DeLeon experienced delivery complications, and if something had happened to her, Dimetman wouldn't have had any parental rights — even though they were legally married in Massachusetts.  

After Dimetman became pregnant with the couple's second child, it was an argument the couple's attorneys repeatedly raised as they urged federal courts to lift a stay of a February 2014 decision striking down Texas' marriage ban

Over the weekend, Dimetman gave birth to a baby girl (above), and again there were complications. 

DeLeon“Labor is scary and anything can happen," Dimetman said in a statement on Monday. "I had an infection as a complication of labor that led to an emergency C-section. A day that should have been one of the happiest of our life was terrifying for Cleo. If I had not made it through the childbirth, Cleo would not have been our daughter’s legal mother because her name is not allowed on the birth certificate in Texas.”

DeLeon said the couple was overjoyed about the birth of but disappointed that Texas' marriage ban remains in place. 

"It is unfair to deny loving parents like us the basic legal protections that provide stability and security so critical to child rearing," DeLeon said. "We pray for the day when all Texans are treated equally under the law and we do not have to live in fear that something bad could happen in childbirth and I would not be considered the child’s parent by law. We hope the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court make all marriages legal in Texas and across the nation.”

Neel Lane, one of the couple's attorneys, noted it's been more than two months since the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the Texas marriage case, but the three-judge panel still hasn't ruled. 

“This otherwise joyous day for Nicole and Cleo is a sad one because, in the eyes of Texas, Nicole is an unwed mother," Lane said. "Her valid marriage to Cleo is declared void by a Texas law that U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia declared unconstitutional more than a year ago. Court after court have agreed with him, and no one doubts the U.S. Supreme Court will do the same."

The other plaintiffs in the Texas marriage lawsuit, Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, issued a statement congratulating DeLeon and Dimetman. 

"We are so thrilled for them!" Phariss and Holmes said. "Unfortunately, Texas law does not recognize Cleo as a parent, even though Cleo and Nicole have been married for more than 5 ½ years. As a result, they must spend money to go to court to fix that, money that could be saved instead for their daughter’s future education, health care, and welfare. The time has now come for marriage equality to be recognized in Texas for the sake Nicole and Cleo and their daughter and for the sake of all gays and lesbians in Texas, including Vic and me who, after 18 years together, desperately want to marry the person we love in the state we love.”


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